IO, Coagency, Intractability, and Resilience

IO, Coagency, Intractability, and Resilience

Erik Hollnagel (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark & Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2002-5.ch020


Technological developments continuously create opportunities that are eagerly adopted by industries with a seemingly insatiable need for innovation. This has established a forceful circulus vitiosus that has resulted in exceedingly complicated socio-technical systems. The introduction of Integrated Operations in drilling and off-shore operations is one, but not the only, example of that. This development poses a challenge for how to deal with risk and safety issues. Where existing safety assessment methods focus on descriptions of component capabilities, complicated socio-technical systems must be described in terms of relations or even functional couplings. In order to design, analyse, and manage such systems, it must be acknowledged that performance adjustments are a resource rather than a threat. Safety can no longer be achieved just by preventing that something goes wrong, but must instead try to ensure that everything goes right. Resilience engineering provides the conceptual and practical means to support and accomplish that change.
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Relocated System Boundaries

The oil and gas industry considered as a system, and using the term loosely, had become both larger and more complicated. If we use a classical definition of a system as “a set of objects together with relationships between the objects and between their attributes” (Hall & Fagen, 1969, p. 81) – or even more broadly as anything that consists of parts connected together – then the industrial systems of today have definitely become larger. The size or extent of a system is determined by how the boundaries are defined, i.e., where one considers that the system ends and the context or environment begins. These boundaries are however rarely absolute or well-defined, but depend on a number of considerations that have to do with concerns for safety, operations, or business. During the last 30 years or so, rampant technological and societal developments have together with rapid changes in the business environment made it necessary to enlarge the boundaries of the systems that we work with and need to control.

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